1973 to 1978…
On my 21st birthday July 15 1973, my present from my parents was a flight; this was from Clacton airstrip in a Cessna 172M G-AVVZ, the flight lasted just 20 minutes but I was hooked. This is a picture of the aircraft that I had my very first flight in, apparently this was taken very close to the time that I flew in it. Clacton airstrip was and as far as I’m aware still a grass runway. I know now that there is a lot of drag on the wheels of an aeroplane taking off or landing at any grass landing site, this knowledge was something I was going to use later in my life.
Picture by permission of the photographer Stuart Jessup.
1973 was the second year of my two-year probation as a Constable with Essex Police, so apart from this flight I did very little towards my hobby for the rest of that year. As no-one else was really interested in my hobby it took as they say a place on the back burner.
As I grew older (some would say none the wiser) I started to travel abroad; at first it was just to Europe but eventually it was to the North American continent. My lust for travel, adventure and plane spotting has never abated, in fact, it has become more than a hobby, it has become a way of life, a passion to the point of obsession. I owe it all to my late great Uncle Gordon.
1974 seems to have been divided between London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted albeit at the time I was living in south Essex in a place called Stanford-Le-Hope or as I came to call it Stanford-No-Hope.
The highlight of 1974 for me was at Heathrow when I saw the US Presidential Boeing C-137C, this is based on the Boeing 707 airframe, fiscal appropriation (tail) number 62-6000 of the 89th AW (Airlift Wing) from Andrews Air Force Base (AFB) Maryland (M.D). USA
In 1975 while living at Stanford-le-Hope in Essex I met up with Brian Bishop, who like me at the time was an Instructor at the local Air Scouts. Brian used to take me flying with him in a variety of Piper Cherokee aircraft from Southend. One afternoon we left Southend and flew to Headcorn in Kent for afternoon tea (as you do). In total in the space of six months I flew with Brian a total of fourteen (14) times to locations such as Clacton and LeTouquet in France. The LeTouquet trip was as you will see later the day after I had arrived home from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, with another pilot friend of Brian’s so I got to sit in the back both ways. From Southend airport to LeTouqet took just one hour each way.
During June 1975 I paid one of my first visits to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) at Duxford, Cambridgeshire for what was one of their annual air shows. There are as far as I can see no show reports for this event on the Scramble.nl pages. Amongst other types there was two Lockheed T.33’s G-OAHB & G-WGHB both owned by a man called Haydon-Bailey, a Jaguar GR.1 XX732 and an unidentified type I only have as “21298”, there was also a Boeing B-17G, Flying Fortress registration, N17TE
On August 10th of 1975 together with my wife we flew from Heathrow to Amsterdam Schiphol in The Netherlands. The flight was my first ever commercial flight and in a Hawker-Siddeley Trident 3B, registration G-AZWA of BEA (British European Airways). Not long after we arrived I was spotting from the roof terrace of Schiphol airport. In those days the charter airline Transavia flew a mixture of early Boeing 737’s and the Sud-Aviation Caravelle. KLM the National airline were flying a mixture of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, the Boeing 747, McDonnell Douglas DC-8 and DC-9.
During a visit to Schiphol on the 13th the star of the day went to a Yugoslavian Tupolev Tu-134 YU-AHY. It was a star prize for me albeit I had seen numerous Tu-134’s operated by Aeroflot out of London’s Heathrow Airport in previous years.
Seven days after we went to Amsterdam we flew home on another BEA Trident this time a Trident Mk.2 G-AVFM. That day the Schiphol ramps were full of KLM, Transavia and many other European based airlines.
The day after we arrived home I yet again flew with my friend from Southend to LeTouquet in France for lunch – as you do this time it was in a Cessna 172 G-AZDZ.
On August 21st I visited RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire England. According to my log there were two Britannia’s XL658 & 660, Belfast C.1’s XR362, 368, 369 & 370 of 53 Sqn and VC-10’s XR810, XV104, 106, 107 & 108. I’m certain there was other stuff there but this was a fleeting visit while on my way back home to Harlow from my late wife’s parents near Cowley in Oxfordshire.
September 7th while on a trip to Stansted I saw my first and at that time only Indian Air Force aircraft which was serial number BG579 a Lockheed 121 Super Constellation, what a crying shame I had no camera with me to record the event.
Photo published by permission of Stephen Piercey
On October 1st I noted XL635 & XN398 two former RAF Bristol Britannia Srs.252’s at Stansted airport, the latter went on to become Belgian civilian registered as OO-YCA. I believe that for some time after they were used to carry freight to destinations far and wide, but mainly to the African continent.
On October 26th I had arranged to take myself on the last flight of the then Invicta Airways Vanguard 592 from Luton to Luton. When I arrived at the airport there were still a number of seats available so I ended up taking my (late) wife and my (late) Mother. The Vanguard was G-AXOY and we flew from Luton to Immingham on the East Coast down the East Coast to Clacton and back into Luton in just 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Photo found on the Internet; no-one to credit
I recall that the air-conditioning on the plane wasn’t working properly and that the three of us go covered in cold water. It wasn’t too reassuring as we were passing through a very heavy rain storm, the water made me think the fuselage was leaking. Fortunately we got back to Luton safe and sound; it was sad to see the end of an era and really what was the end of an airline.
To finish off the year on November 8th I flew off with a Group called Aviation News to Basel in Switzerland on a DC9-32 HB-IFY. We then travelled all over that side of Switzerland visiting bases and places until we finally arrived at our hotel in Zurich. This was the first of what was going to become many visits to this beautiful country.
The flowing day we had a visit to what is now familiar territory to me, Pilatus-Flugzeugwerke (since renamed Pilatus Aircraft Ltd) at Stans-Buochs. Stans is to the South of Zürich and would take about 40 minutes to get to by coach / bus from Zurich.
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was formed just after the start of the Second World War in December 1939 when the Swiss Government (Switzerland is a neutral country) identified a need for training and maintenance of an indigenous aircraft. The site chosen was an existing maintenance facility in the heart of Switzerland at Stans in the region of Nidwalden close to its namesake Mount Pilatus.
In 1975 the site was split into three main parts in the back of one hangar there were a number of interesting aircraft. These were three Piper Cherokees painted in silver with blue cheat lines, there were also two PC-6’s in the same markings and titles. For reasons of confidentiality I will not name the companies using these aircraft.
There were also an assortment of Swiss AF Hunters which were stored and or being re-worked and Pilatus PC-6’s either on re-work on being manufactured.
Two of the PC-6’s were from the Swiss AF being V-631 & V-632, also there were five Swiss AF Alouette II Helicopters, V-203, 208, 223, 234 and 253.
This side of the airfield and another on the same side as the main facility ares now “off-limits” to Aviation Enthusiasts which is a great shame as behind the hangars are some very interesting caves. It is still rumoured that a number of airworthy types are stored in these caves. (Circa 2016)
1972 saw the production of an all metal Glider the Pilatus B4/PC-11. These Gliders were produced at Stans; the B4 was a standard class glider suitable for Group Operations & Competition Pilots but also suitable for high altitude flying, cloud flying and unrestricted aerobatic training. Five of this type of Glider were being built while we were on the tour of the facility in 1975.
In June 1978 the production rights to the B4/PC-11 were sold to the Japanese company NIPPI, Pilatus had built and sold in excess of 300 of these all metal gliders prior to the sale to the Japanese.
Unfortunately this side of the airfield is now “off-limits” to Aviation Enthusiasts which is a great shame as behind the hangars are some very interesting caves. It is still rumoured that a number of airworthy types are stored in these caves. (Circa 2016)
On our way back to Zürich, we had time for a whistle-stop visit to the Transport Museum at Luzern where there were a number of very interesting aviation exhibits. One of these was a Convair Cv-990 Coronado registration HB-ICC. The plane had been transported to the museum on a large floating pontoon from one side of Lake Luzern to the museum. It must have been quite a feat of engineering to get this plane in place.
From Luzern we headed back to Zürich airport, here we had the last visit of our day, this was to the maintenance facility of Swissair. Here we were given a very interesting and informative visit to the engineering base and afford the opportunity to board and look around a DC-10-30 (HB-IHD)
Late that evening we caught the last flight from Zürich back to Heathrow, yet again and I have to say to my disappointment it was the same DC-9 we had flown out to Switzerland on the day before.
I closed off 1975 with a visit to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, England. It was on the 17th of November that I saw my first Boeing E-4A. The E-4A is basically a flying communications platform that would in the event of a nuclear war have the President of the USA (POTUS) on board where he would be taking control on the nuclear holocaust being unleashed many thousands of feet below his aircraft. The E-4A would be supported by a fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, two of which would be required at any one time to refuel the E-4A until ultimately they had to return to the nuclear devastated planet below.
The E-4A would be only able to fly for a pre-determined time that time was determined by the amount of lubricants that would require replacing in the four Pratt & Whitney JT-9D engines powering the plane. It would also depend on the amount of food for the crew on board (up to 112 in time of National Emergency) When that time was reached POTUS too would have to find somewhere to land. Whether the aircraft and or POTUS would ever take off again is still thankfully unknown.
On the same date there were three Boeing EC-135H of the 10th ACCS (Airborne Command & Control Squadron). These aircraft were flying Electronic Intelligence gathering platforms used extensively from RAF Mildenhall to fly up to and along the Iron Curtain.
The 10th ACCS were based at RAF Mildenhall although the parent Unit was from Offutt AFB in Nebraska, USA.
The EC-135H could remain airborne for long periods because it could be refueled in flight this was ‘normally’ carried out by the 100th Air Refuelling Wing co-located at RAF Mildenhall. I will talk more about the 100th in more detail later.
I ended 1975 with a visit to Heathrow on December 8th where amongst all the civilian aircraft was a Hawker-Siddeley HS.748 Andover serial number XS793 and call sign Quebec Foxtrot One (QF1) more than likely Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was aboard that aircraft.
In my early years of spotting I used to spend as much time as I could at either London-Heathrow, London-Gatwick, Stansted or Southend. I hadn’t been ‘bitten’ by the Military bug, Yet!
In 1976 I was still into spotting just about anything that flew so I spent a lot of time visiting the old Faithfull’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. I was still living in Stanford-le-Hope so getting to and from Southend didn’t present too much of a problem, I only wish the same could have been said for getting to and from Heathrow and Gatwick.
On Sunday January 18 1976 I made a trip to Luton airport in Bedfordshire where three former RAF Bristol Britannia aircraft languished. They were XL657, XM496 & XM520 the latter also wore the civil registration of 9G-ACE, that latter was going to somewhere on the African Continent to see out its working life. I’d thought it was going to be a long time that year until I saw anything Military, but here at Luton were three former Military aircraft still wearing full Military markings and titles!
March 1st and one of my first visits to RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. I only recorded a few of the serials which included a C-141A Starlifter 64-0618 (40168), 10 x Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers of various marks and operators and a Lockheed C-130H Hercules 63-7856 and finally I have in my log book a US Navy “twin” 136753 which turns out to be a US Navy C-1A Trader.
The United States Air Force (USAF) use a system of fiscal appropriation to denote when the aircraft was ‘purchased’ so looking at the above C-141A Starlifter it was appropriated in 1964 and was the 618th to be such. The serial is presented on the tail fin on the aircraft as 40168 the last ‘four’ will also be present of the front of the aircraft close to or near the data block.
The United States Navy & Marine Corps (USN / USMC) use a different system, the have Bu or Bureau numbers. There is no exact way of telling what year any USN or USMC aircraft was appropriated.
The United States Army (USAR) uses the same system as the USAF.
The day was a bit rushed as I was out and about with my late Father. Our next stop was Norwich where my only real number of the day was VX580 a Vickers Valetta C.2 which was then in use with the Norwich Air Scouts.
March 9th back to Stansted to see Bristol Britannia XN398 & XL639 as well as the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, registration N17TE (this is a United States Civil registration) and for me at that time a rare sighting in the guise of a Korean Air Lines Boeing 707 registration N370WA. The Korean aircraft was on lease from an American company World Airways and hence it wore an American civil registration and not Korean (HL-xxx)
Later that day at Luton I saw XL657 / 9U-BAD & XM491 / EI-BBH both Bristol Britannia’s ex RAF. The following day I was back at Heathrow where there was a visiting RAF H.S. Andover XS769.
March 26th and just for a change of scenery I was at Southend airport where an Army Air Corps Scout AH.1 helicopter serial number XW603 paid a visit while I was there.
April 23rd I was once again back at Heathrow this time on the deck 67-0017 a C-141A of 438 MAW (Military Airlift Wing) USAF, quite why it was there I still to this day don’t know. I can only assume that it was there in a support role of some kind.
May 8th 1976 I boarded a Boeing 737-130 registration D-ABER of Lufthansa; I was off to Hannover for the International Air Show. Forty years on and this show is now called ILA and is held at Berlin Schönefeld airport. I was travelling with a Group of fellow enthusiasts but for the life of me I cannot remember who had organised the trip.
We landed at Bremen, I say landed as it was more like the Pilot threw it onto the runway and I said at the time that it must be like landing on an aircraft carrier. Our departure was as ballistic as the landing the pilot (I assume the same one) held the aircraft on its brakes until the two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7 engines were screaming to go. Having released the brakes we then hurtled down the runway for a few metres before the nose went up and we’d left Mother Earth. It did leave me wondering if this Pilot was a former German Navy Pilot! (Not that Germany ever had any aircraft carriers)
Two days of non-stop spotting at the airshow resulted in a very full and interesting log book and there were many types that I had not encountered before. Highlight of that show was a Guatemalan AF Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Arava serial number 856.
At the end of day two it was time for the flights home, this time the Boeing 737-130 was D-ABET and we landed a lot more smoothly at Bremen (BRE) and Heathrow (LHR).
I continued with my spotting civil (washes mouth out) at Stansted and Heathrow occasionally visiting London Gatwick and Luton as well as fitting in the odd visit to RAF Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Honington.
May 20th; another visit to Stansted this time four Bristol Britannia Srs.253, XL635, 636, 637 and XM497 as well as still unknown DHC Chipmunk sitting very close to them.
May 30th; good old Stansted came up trumps for me again this time is was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules but not a USAF example this was a Venezuelan Air Force serial number 4951. I managed to get a picture I took of that published in the weekly aviation magazine Aviation News.
June 17th a quick visit to Gatwick, in luck again as an MS.760 Paris 118 / NQ landed just as I was about to leave the roof terrace area. It was also coded 101 on the nose wheel door.
June 20th Back for another air show at Duxford; one that still puzzles me from here was a Lockheed T.33 Shooting Star registration N12420 that was allegedly owned by O.A. Hayden-Bailey
On 26th June I made a quick visit to Heathrow, this was interesting as I saw a Wessex Helicopter whose call-sign was Kitty 6. I have to assume that this was from the Royal Flight Squadron; it was followed out by a USAF/USAR Bell Iroquois this I was told had the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on board.
July 4th Mildenhall was the venue and this was the bi-centennial of American Independence air show. I’ll give the American’s one thing they certainly know how to lay on an air show and none more so than this one. Well what a show that was I think there was one of nearly every type on the USAF and USN inventory as well as display Teams from Belgium (Red Devils in their CM170 Magistar aircraft) as well as Belgian AF Lockheed F-104 Starfighters and Dassault Mirage 5’s. The Royal Air Force sent their Poachers Team with their Jet Provost T.5’s. It truly was an eclectic mix of aircraft from all over the world but especially Europe & the USA. After the show ended I/we drove over to RAF Lakenheath where I saw no less than 35 of the based McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II of the three resident Squadrons 492nd 493rd and 494th TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron) of the 48th TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing).
31st July the venue was RAF Greenham Common, near to Newbury in Royal Berkshire, the event, the International Air Tattoo. It was a bit of a bonus for aviation enthusiasts attending as all the F-111E’s from the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) from RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire had been moved into this base due to work in progress at their home base.
This was one heck of a show, with display teams from all across the Globe attending including the French, Italian and Austrian. The show report on scramble.nl makes for me very interesting reading as does my surviving log book.
Having had a fantastic day (alone) I started to head home, alas the battery warning light came up on my dash board and I knew that as it was dark I was not going to reach home. Being resourceful I headed for Heathrow, drove to one of the middle floors of car park 3 and settled down for the night! I did get checked by the Police during the night although when I explained my predicament they wished me well and left me alone for the rest of the night. Can you imagine that today (2016), no neither can I?
The following morning a first light I got the car started and drove the long drive from Heathrow to Stanford-le-Hope. I almost made it! I had to call a friend and he came out and towed me home. Fortunately I lived opposite a Ford dealership / garage and within a few hours I was back up and running with a brand new alternator fitted.
The next US bi-centennial event was on August 7th at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. Based here and the co-located airfield of RAF Bentwaters was the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) both base aircraft wore the tail code WR and were equipped with the McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II. The Belgian Air Force sent their Blue Bees display team using their Alouette III helicopters. This was another very memorable day out.
Three days later I had a very pleasant surprise on a visit to Stansted airport, sitting there was a Vickers Viscount of the Turkish Air Force (Turk-Hava-Kuvvetleri) serial number 246 which I believe was also the aircraft construction number. There was talk at the time that this aircraft was also given a Turkish civilian registration of TC-SEC to allow it to fly across Europe and into the United Kingdom.
On September 8th I drove from my home in Stanford-le-Hope to Southend and boarded an ATL 978 Carvair registration G-AOFW of British Air Ferries. Once again I flew to LeTouquet and had my lunch there, I was getting used to having lunch in LeTouquet. After lunch and to coincide with the return flight to Southend I flew back on the same aircraft into Southend. Prior to taking off I’d spoken to the Stewardess and asked her if it would be possible at some stage on the short flight to have a look in the cockpit. After a few minutes she came back and said she’d spoken to the Captain and he’d okayed the request.
I followed her to this almost vertical ladder to the cockpit sat in the jump seat got given a set of headphones and was invited to stay there for the remainder of the flight and landing back at Southend. Why is it the runway always seems to be so short when you’re on the flight deck of any aircraft no matter where in the world you are?
It was for me yet another first; a first of type and a ‘first’ by being in the cockpit of that aircraft.
Another picture taken from the Internet that does not appear to have been copyrighted by the photographer. This shows G-AOFW the ATL.98 Carvair landing at Southend airport
The Aviation Traders Ltd ATL-98 Carvair was conceived and designed by the late Sir Freddie Laker (later to operate the Trans-Atlantic no frills airline, Laker-Skytrain). The Carvair was based on the Douglas DC-4 or C-54 Military version of the DC-4. The forward fuselage of the DC-4 was removed and in its place the bulbous forward fuselage with raised cockpit was added. The front of the plane had two outward opening hinged doors this was to permit the loading of between three and five cars. If three cars were loaded the Carvair (Car-via-air) could accommodate 55 passengers in the rear of the fuselage. If five cars were loaded the passenger numbers were reduced to approximately 25. The change from 25 to 55 or vice versa could be achieved in just 40 minutes.
The Carvair was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-200 Twin Wasp engines the same type that had powered the DC-4/C-54. Twenty one examples of the Carvair were built, three of them at ATL’s Southend base and the remainder at their Stansted facility. Over the years the Carvair served with airlines like Aer Lingus, British United Air Ferries and British Air Ferries. The last three off the production/conversion line went to Ansett-ANA in Australia; what an interesting ferry flight that must have been.
The following day 9th September I was back at Farnborough, Hampshire for their Airshow and what a day that was again I say what a crying shame that Digital photography hadn’t been invented then. I’d love to know what happened to some of those aircraft so must do some more research one day. The highlight of that show for me was an aircraft serial number 5-249 a Boeing 707-3J9C of the Imperial Iranian AF; you don’t see one of them every day!
Just a few days later I was off on another flight; this time I flew yet again from London-Heathrow to Amsterdam this time it was with KLM on a McDonnell-Douglas DC9-32 registration PH-DNK. I think I remember spending most of the day logging / spotting stuff at Schiphol airport before going to a Bar or two.
The following day I returned to London-Heathrow again with KLM on a McDonnell-Douglas DC9-33RC PH-DNN.
On November 3rd that year I moved from my posting at Grays to Harlow Traffic Unit, my Police Authority owned house was just five doors away from my Parents home in Potter Street, Harlow. I had got my dream posting, I was a Traffic Officer. In 2016 at the time of writing this they are now called Road Policing Officers and belong to Road Policing Units.
The day after we moved into the house Maggie my wife asked me to take her to her parent’s home near to Cowley in Oxfordshire; this was the beginning of the end of our marriage.
On the way back from taking her to Cowley, Oxfordshire my Ford Cortina Mk.3 Estate (index number KGK 161K) broke down and I remember “limping” it back to Harlow. There had been no time to divert my attention to plane spotting that day.
On November 6th I started work at Harlow Traffic Garage and one of my first questions was could one of their mechanics have a look at my car and tell me what was wrong! A couple of days later and a few quid lighter my car was fixed which is more than can be said for my marriage.
After a few days at the Traffic Garage I was asked what my nickname was, I replied I didn’t have one and quick as a flash ‘Addo’ was born. To this day the nickname has stuck with me and I admit to getting very confused when people refer to me by my given name(s).
In mid-December that year my wife (Margaret / Maggie) asked if she could “come back” to me and I said that was a Yes. She stayed with me until just after Christmas and New Year when she yet again gave me the news that she was leaving and this time it was for good. One of her friends another WPC called Steph. was coming to pick her up and take her home.
That was the last I saw of my wife Margaret until the following year (1977) at the Police Head Quarters, Chelmsford, Essex. I think we had both moved on as they say, well I certainly had! However it was a bit embarrassing one morning going into breakfast when I was spotted by Maggie walking into the canteen with my new girlfriend, oh yes another WPC (Woman Police Constable) called Christine. Will I learn?
Not exactly the best way to finish off a year or to start a new posting.
I was able to fix all these adventures in by judicious use of days off and annual leave. I don’t recall having a holiday abroad for many years to come.
The New Year started with the prospect of being divorced; in those days it was a two year process and I/we had to prove that it was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage before a decree absolute could be issued. It was going to be a long haul, but hey ho that’s was a fact of life.
New Year’s Day found me at Stansted; I only logged three aircraft which were LN-SUG a Boeing 737 of Braathens SAFE, YU-AHY a Tu-134A of the Yugoslavian company Aviogenex and N9232R an L-100-382B of Southern I even have the c/n of this as 4299! (c/n is the construction number)
I was back there the following day and logged only one of interest to me (at that time!) which was a DC-9 OY-KGC which I believe was Scandinavian Airlines.
On the 10th of January I went on a round-robin trip, my first port of call was London Heathrow where there was a Lockheed C-130/L.100 Hercules (the L.100 is the civilianised version of the C-130) it was registered in the USA as N104AK still in the 1976 Bicentennial colour scheme. There was a DC-10 of National Airlines N82NA, this sported a two tone sun on the upper fin above the middle engine of the DC-10. From Heathrow I made my way to Luton airport, not much of interest here apart from a Transavia B737 (PH-TVI) by the Britannia Airways hangar and a DC-8 G-BDDE of IAS.
From Luton I moved on to Hatfield in Herts. where I saw the remains of G-BCUX which was a Hawker Siddeley 125-600. The aircraft had been involved in an accident in 1975 at the Dunsfold aerodrome, Surrey and subsequently transported by road to Hatfield. As a result of its accident it was written off.
On the 15th I found myself at both RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath; Mildenhall had the “cop of the day” with 4X-BYD a Boeing 707 of the Israeli Defence Forces going into the log book. There were at least 18 KC-135 Stratotankers there at that time as well as a couple of Lockheed C-130 Hercules and a VC-9C; the C-9 series were based on the McDonnell – Douglas DC-9 airframe.
The VC-9C was part of the 89th Military Airlift Wing (MAW) based at Andrews Air Force Base (AFB), Maryland (MD), USA. It was as the ‘V; implies used for VIP work and carried such people as the Secretary of State for the USA. In later years the VC-9’s were all replaced in this role by the Boeing C-32A which uses the Boeing 757 airframe.
Over at Lakenheath there were 28 McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II’s out. All but 6 of them marked with the tail code LN showing me that they were part of the 48th TFW.
From Mildenhall/Lakenheath I made my way to RAF Honington where all I saw was the Gate Guard a Buccaneer S.1 XK531 which I believe is still there to this day.
Now on my way back home I came down to Cambridge, I have only a note that there was an English Electric (EE) Canberra withdrawn from use and looked to be stored.
Back on the road again, on the 19th I visited RAF Wethersfield which at the time had the USAF(E) this is the USAF(Europe) in charge, displayed on the gate there was an F-100 Super Sabre marked 62000 (really 54-2265 – this aircraft now “guards” the Gate to RAF Lakenheath.)
Later in the month, the 28th to be exact I took myself via Kidlington (Oxford) airport to RAF Brize Norton where I struck lucky. Not one but two Imperial Iranian AF Lockheed C-130 Hercules on the ramp 5-8523 and 5-8544, this was going to be a good day! I also logged a Shorts Belfast C.1, XR366, Vickers VC-10 XV108 and XR140 a Hawker Siddeley Argosy C.1
During February I had the odd day out to Stansted, Luton, Heathrow and Southend but nothing stood out to catch my attention until the 22nd at Stansted when I saw my first Antonov An-12 7T-WAE of the Algerian AF. On the 27th of the month also at Stansted I saw my first Israeli AF Lockheed C-130 Hercules registration, 4X-FBU. The Israelis do give their Military aircraft a civilian registration as this then permits them to fly through airspace otherwise denied to military operators.
March 16th saw me and my friend from Cumbria, Peter (also a Police Officer) at both Mildenhall and Lakenheath, this time there were 14 KC-135 Stratotankers a lone RC-135, serial number 64-14846, this is the Recognisance version of the C-135. The RC-135’s are festooned with all sorts of aerials and antennas as well as a large SLAR (Sideways Looking Airborne Radar) pod on both sides of the aircraft. Two of the 10th ACCS EC-135’s were also there. A single Lockheed C-5A Galaxy 70-0457, a C-141 Starlifter 60-0140 and a sole C-130H 69-6566 completed the picture at the Hall.
Meanwhile over at the Heath there was 21 F-4D’s and my first “swinger” General Dynamics F-111F 70-2394.
Later that day we visited RAF Honington where we saw four Buccaneer S.2’s but only identified one which was XT280 coded 032 of 892 NAS (Naval Air Squadron) Royal Navy.
We finished off that day with a visit to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk which at the time was home then to two Squadrons of RAF Phantoms, 23 and 56 being those Squadrons. Alas I only saw 12 of those Squadron’s aircraft but did note a Varsity T.1 WL668 coded X and a Canberra B(I)8 XM275 on the fire training ground / dump area. That had been a great day out with Peter.
The following day Peter and I drove across to Hatfield as we’d read in one of the magazines that there was a Hawker Siddeley Trident going to be delivered to the Chinese airline CAAC that day. We parked up and walked the fence line to try and see this Trident. We’d not gone too far when we were approached by Hawker-Siddeley Aviation Security personnel who asked us what we were doing. We explained that we had come to see the departure of the Trident 2E going to China. We’d read that it was going to be flown by Captain John “Cats eyes” Cunningham. The poor Security guy nearly had a heart attack with the names and information we reeled off. He got on his radio and another Security Officer joined us at the fence, they politely invited us to the Security post at the entrance to Hawker-Siddeley Aviation.
We were then questioned by the Senior Security bod as to how we’d got the information and what we hoped to see. So I/we relayed the story to him about reading in Flight International magazine that the Trident was about to depart for China flown by John ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham etc. He looked very perplexed; that was it for him he was on the phone to the local Police.
They duly arrived, a double crewed car; they began to question us in the same polite manner as the HS Security people when one of the Police Officers said, “either of you got any identification with you?”. Big smiles from Peter and me as we both produced our Police Warrant Cards! The look on the faces of the Security people was priceless and the Police well they just smiled took all our details and said their farewells. The Security people invited us to stay in the Security post to watch the departure of the Trident to China. We both felt quite smug that day
I/we thought that was the end of it, oh how wrong was I? A few days later I was summoned to the Chief Inspectors Office at Harlow Traffic. There sat two men in suits who introduced themselves as a Detective Superintendent and Detective Chief Inspector. I don’t think either of them had a clue about the hobby or the publication Flight International, I spent at least an hour trying to explain the how what and why of the hobby and where I had been during my lifetime in pursuit of the hobby. They didn’t seem convinced and they went off back to their Special Branch Office convinced I was some kind of Spy!
Of course when my colleagues found out they changed my nickname from Addo to Addoski or Spyski as sadly they with the exception of Martin A. Faulkner or MAF as we called him didn’t understand the hobby either! This was not to be the last time I was going to be “detained” or questioned about my hobby.
On April 5th I was back at the fence at Hatfield as the next Trident 2E for CAAC (G-BBVX) was going to depart, this time there were no “arresting” incidents with HS Security.
During May 1977 I had been on a Traffic Law Course at Police Head Quarters, Chelmsford. It was really hard work learning all the relevant Acts of Parliament, Road Traffic Acts & Regulations of all descriptions and Construction and Use of Motor Vehicles on our roads. I welcomed each weekend off from the intensive learning.
One such day of respite from the course was May 14th was my outing to RAF Biggin Hill or as it was then just plain old Biggin Hill for an Air Show. Sadly I can find no records on Scramble.nl of this show however from my log book I know that this was a very interesting air show to attend. Amongst the line up were the first of the (British Aerospace) BAe Hawk T.1’s XX161 & XX170 being from 4 FTS (Flying Training School), XM660 coded T was a Westland Wessex from the Royal Navy and a Hercules C.1 of 47 Sqn RAF Lyneham.I think at that time the Red Arrows aerobatic team were still flying from Little Rissington in Oxfordshire in their Folland Gnat T.1’s.
Three days later saw me at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk with Essex Police on a “day out” to learn about rescue from crashed aircraft. It was actually a wind down day from a Traffic Law course we were doing and this was our jobs way of giving us a bit of relaxation. I actually got to sit in an F-4D Phantom II of the 81st TFW tail number 66-0519 coded WR.
Also there were five Northrop F-5E Tiger II’s, 74-01534, 01542, 01543, 01548 from the 527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron (TFTAS) based at RAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, an RAF Dominie T.1 XS727 coded D and two Italian AF Lockheed F-104 Starfighters coded 3-02 and 3-07 completed the line-up that I could see. I’m pleased to say that the Traffic Law Course finished at the end of that week and we all passed.
A few days later at Stansted the only visitor of note to me was XS646 / F an Andover C.1 of the RAE – Royal Aircraft Establishment.
To finish off the month on the 29th I went to RAF Mildenhall for the annual Air Fete and where I saw the YC-14 (72(0)1874) & YC-15 (72(8)1875) in the static display. Both the YC-14 & YC-15 had been the contenders for a future cargo aircraft for the United States Air Force.
Boeing YC-14 – Copyright Boeing / McDonnell-Douglas YC-15 © McDD
Eventually the competition was won by McDonnell-Douglas with their C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The C-17 was built at the McDonnell-Douglas plant Long Beach, California USA.
Boeing C-17A 437th Aw from Charleston AFB SC. USA (My photo)
Boeing acquired McDonnell-Douglas in December 1969 in a multi-Billion Dollar (USD $) deal. The last C-17 to roll off the Long Beach Ca. production line was on November 30th 2015, the aircraft one off four being delivered in 2016 to the Qatari AF via the Boeing Plant in San Antonio, Texas, USA
In 2016 it is still in service with the United States Air Force, which as one would expect is the most numerous operator of the type having had 223 of the type delivered. Numerous Foreign Military Sales (FMS) were made around the World including the Royal Air Force.
Boeing C-17A 10-0214 437th AW departs Ramstein AB Germany during August 2015 © Addo Addison
There were far too many serials of the air show participants to list here; what a truly great day out this had been.
So it was back to Stansted for my next Military serial in the log book, 4th June saw Nr.86 coded 62-KE a Nord Noratlas of the French AF arrive having displayed, actually dropping parachutists over Harlow Town show. The call-sign this day was Foxtrot Mike 9922. It departed Stansted the following day using the same call sign.
It was about this time that I had been involved in a Police Accident (POLACC) with one of my shift colleagues at the wheel of the Police car at the time of the accident. However it did not deter me from my next mission despite having my neck in a support collar!
On June 9th I boarded a Boeing 720, this is yet another derivative of the venerable Boeing 707, G-AZNX of Monarch Airlines at Luton airport and we took off for Beauvais France, I was on my way to the 1977 Paris Salon.
From memory it was a very mixed bag of weather one minute it was too hot and I had to shelter from the sun and the next it was persisting with rain again having to take shelter. What a day though, many varied and interesting types entering my log book. The Scramble.nl Show reports gives an excellent list of the items I would have seen at the show.
Highlights for me though I guess would be the Argentine AF Pucaras A-507 & AX-03 and the Israeli Kfir 4X-CFL / 779 show Nr. 263
As they say all good things come to an end and soon it was time to make our way from LeBourget back to Beauvais for the flight back to Luton on the same plane that had been sitting waiting for us all day.
On the 25th June I found myself at RAF Greenham Common near Newbury in Royal Berkshire for the International Air Tattoo. Another feast of interesting and varied aircraft on display and displaying from the World’s Military Air Arms. Once again it was difficult to pick out a “highlight” from the show save to say the various F-104 Starfighters put on a great display. A comprehensive list of participants can be found on the show reports page of www.Scramble.nl
The rest of the year until September 3rd paled into insignificance. This was RNAS Yeovilton’s Air Day and what a day this was going to be! This was my first time at RNAS Yeovilton and I was amazed at the hardware that was on display not only from the Royal Navy but from Navies all around the European continent as well as a few from the US Navy.
Yeovilton echoed to the sound of Royal Navy English Electric Canberra’s, Hawker Hunters, Westland Wessex and Westland Sea Kings. The Royal Marines provided five whistling chicken legs or as they should be called the Westland Gazelle AH.1 (Helicopter).
The USN had sent three aircraft for display these were 159796 / 700 a S-3A Viking from VS-31, 157581 / 406 an A-7E from VA-12 and 158533 / 503 an A-6E from VA-65 all off the USS Independence which I am led to believe was at anchor at Stokes Bay in The Solent .
A comprehensive list of the aircraft attending can be found at www.scramble.nl
The very next day I had travelled back to my home in Harlow and then departed for Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire for their show. There was no comparison to the events the day before at Yeovilton. The highlight for me was the over flight of four RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, alas they did not land and disappeared as quickly as they had arrived and displayed.
At the show was a Lockheed HC-103N Hercules, serial number 69-15826 of the 67th ARRS (Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron) out of RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk. XV302 a Lockheed C-130 Hercules was the aerial platform from which the RAF Falcons parachute display team alighted, the aircraft doing its customary low level fly past once the parachutists had landed.
After the show I made my way across to RAF Mildenhall and yet again I wasn’t at all disappointed. Twenty four KC-135’s, two RC-135’s, five C-130’s and a C-2A 155123 coded JM 123 awaited.
From Mildenhall it was rude not to go over to RAF Lakenheath who by now had transitioned to the F-111F. There was in excess of sixty of these aircraft out to view there being no Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) at this time on this base. A sight to behold and a sight not to be seen much longer as the shelters were starting to be built.
I’m guessing at this but I must of have been on leave from work as the following day I was back at London-Heathrow! In fact the next few weeks were spent going from RAF Mildenhall / Lakenheath to RAF Wethersfield, Stansted and Heathrow as well as Luton airports I spent the majority of my days off flitting from one airfield or aerodrome to another.
In October 1977, I set off with my Mum and Aunts Doreen and Edie on board bound for my Aunt Maureen’s home in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. I seem to recall it was a family gathering for a Wedding or some such occasion. Having Mum and my Aunts did not stop me from calling in at Prestwick airport, nor Glasgow, in fact Mum used to come with me quite a bit on my spotting trips, I even taught her how to log the serials and registrations into my log book as I read them off through my binoculars.
The highlight of that trip for me was on 21/10 at Prestwick where I saw a Canadian civilian registered dhC (DeHavilland Canada) Buffalo, quite which way it was going over the Pond I have no idea. The following day there was a Canadian AF Boeing 707which is still to this day unidentified.
We were on our way home so it seemed rude not to call in to Manchester airport on the way, my Mum and Aunts were more than happy. However when we got home that evening my Dad was far from happy that we had taken so long, apparently so were my Uncle’s, wondering if I’d abducted their wives!
I did a bit of work as you have to occasionally during November then come 2/12 I took myself out again to RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath. I was not disappointed at Mildenhall, eight Lockheed CF-104 Starfighters, four Lockheed C-141A Starlifters, and a couple of European based F-4E’s from Hahn (HR) and an RF-4C from RAF Alconbury coded AR. To finish off the Phantom line up there were two JbG 36 F-4F’s from the West German AF (WGAF).
On 3/12 I was once again at Heathrow; this provided a Boeing WC-135B 61-2669 from the USAF. In the 1970’s Heathrow provided a very diverse range of aircraft types, on this particular day there was an Ilyushin IL-62M, to look at this aircraft without it’s Aeroflot titles you could be mistaken for thinking it was a Vickers VC-10, almost an exact copy! Looking like a longer but thinner version of the BAC 1-11 was the Russian Tupolev 134; the example seen this day was from Czechoslovakia.
Also seen on this day were the Anglo / French BAC/Aerospatiale supersonic Concorde passenger aircraft. This too was copied by the Russians in the form of the Tupolev Tu-144. Today an example of both aircraft can be seen at the Museum at Sinsheim, Germany. http://sisnsheim.technik-museum.de/en
To finish off the diversity of types there was a South African Airways Boeing 747SP, a DC-10 of Thai Airways and Air New Zealand, an Air Canada Lockheed L.1011 TriStar and one of the first Airbus A300’s for Air France.
1977 had been a great year for me and for my hobby. If you’ll pardon the pun, time just flew by. With 1978 just around the corner there was so much to do and see but that was enough for this year.
Coming soon, 1978. Well it was going to be soon but I have just deleted the whole of 1978 and everything that went before it. Luckily the earlier years are saved on here (I hope with fingers crossed)
1978 got off to what for me was a slow start, my first visit out was on January 10th to good old Stansted airport. There was a retired from service Vickers VC.10 registration A4O-VK, it had been retired from Gulf Air an Oman based operator. In a few months this aircraft would become ZA143 as a VC.10 K.2 with 101 Squadron of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. ZA143 joined four retired Gulf Air Vickers VC.10’s after their refit to VC.10 K.2 standard at British Aerospace’s facility at Filton, near to Bristol in the U.K. The former Gulf Air VC.10’s would become ZA140 to ZA144 inclusive. Four former Kenya Airways VC.10’s were converted from their civilian role to VC.10 K.3 standard and were assigned to the RAF as ZA147 to ZA150 inclusive and joined 101 Sqn at Brize Norton.
February was spent going around the old faithful airports such as Stansted, Luton and Heathrow. There was nothing that to me stood out as worthy of mention here.
In March I ventured to the North West of England to Manchester, as luck would have it I saw two Vickers Viscounts serials numbers 501 & 502 that had been withdrawn from use (w.f.u.) from the Royal Air Force of Oman. 501 went into civilian service in the U.K. as G-BFZL, 502 also saw civilian service in Swaziland, South Africa as 3D-ACN.
My stop at Manchester formed part of going a lot further north as I was headed to Kilmarnock in Ayrshire with my girlfriend of the time Christine to visit my Aunt Maureen and Uncle Jim. On the ‘way’ to my Aunt’s in Kilmarnock we just happened to visit Prestwick and Glasgow airports. Prestwick had a Sea King HAS.5 on SAR duty and visiting was a C-131 that had flown up from the US Navy based at the Naval Air Facility at RAF Mildenhall.
I’d asked my Aunt to show us the ‘real’ Glasgow, indeed she did and I lost count of the number of department stores that we visited (big smile here).
On another day Christine and I went further afield; I have always been fascinated by submarines and thought it a golden opportunity not to be missed by trying to see into Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) at Faslane. HMNB Faslane (or Clyde as it is today in 2017) sits close to the head of the Gare Loch, strategically located out of sight of prying eyes, mine included. We did however get a small glimpse of the base from the A814, but that was it only a glimpse.
The following day we started our journey home, this time we chose (or rather I chose) to come down the east coast route. This enabled me to visit Newcastle airport, Teesside airport and lastly what was then RAF Catterick. Catterick was the only place of interest and to this day I still have not identified the serial of the Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy along with five other airframes on the dump at this location. Unfortunately due to time constraints we didn’t get to stop at RAF Leeming or RAF Coningsby on our return journey which was rather disappointing as that had been my plan.
Early April I was off to Heathrow, Luton and Stansted nothing to really write about at any of them. On the 11th I paid a visit to Stapleford aerodrome, interesting to me as a Police Officer was a Bell 47G registration G-BERJ, this was using the call-sign India 99 which indicated to me that it was the helicopter from the Metropolitan Police. Other than that there was nothing to grab my attention.
Later in the month Christine and I went down towards the south coast routing via Gatwick. It was here that I saw my first Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Lockheed C-130H Hercules, my research shows that this aircraft was written off on 27.03.1989 while it was serving with 4 Sqn. Christine and I also visited Shoreham aerodrome but it was full of light aircraft and yet again nothing really of interest to me.
May 20th was my next venture out, this time it was for the air show at RAF Biggin Hill. There was an eclectic mix of aircraft from all over Europe including a Saab Supporter T.17 training aircraft from Denmark serial T-404. The RAF and Royal Navy provided a mix of aircraft including eleven examples of the Folland Gnat T.1. These aircraft were from the RAF Display Team the Red Arrows. Westland Wessex HU.5 serial was also in the static park, and a lone Phantom FGR.2 from 43 Sqn was amongst others present.
The Canadians of 421 Sqn CAF sent five Lockheed CF-104 Starfighters from their European base at Baden Solingen, Germany. The United States Air Force(Europe) (USAF(E) sent a lone example of an McDonnell-Douglas F-15A Eagle serial 75-0032 coded BT which told me it came from the 36th TFW, Bitburg AB, Germany. This airframe now rests in the 309th AMARG at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson AZ.
The French AF (FrAF) provided four Mirage F.1 aircraft from their EC-12 (Ecole de Chasse). However for me and I’m sure other aviation enthusiasts, the star of this show would have been the Lockheed C-130H serial NZ7004 of 40 Sqn the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).
The list and types have been compiled from my own log taken at the time and also from the Show Reports found on http://scramble.nl
The weekend after Biggin Hill I found myself with Christine at Bassingbourn (not a million miles from where I currently live) for their air show. Bassingbourn was used by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in World War II, the resident Squadrons used to fly the Boeing B.17 Flyingfortress from here.
This place really garnered my interest in rotary wing flying; there was a Royal Navy (RN) Sea King, an RN Westland Wessex, Westland Scout, a RN Lynx and three Westland Wessex from 72 Sqn RAF. The Royal Danish AF sent an Alouette III which if I recall correctly was on floats as it was used by their SAR (Search And Rescue) Wing. I was beginning to get hooked on Helicopters.
Amongst the static was an English Electric (EE) Lightning F.3 from 5 Sqn RAF which if I’m not mistaken were based at RAF Binbrook Lincolnshire, here in the U.K. Also nestled in the static park was a Blackburn Buccaneer S.2A serial XT273.
Today Bassingbourn is no longer in the charge of the Royal Air Force, it has become a Barracks, the runway has been decimated and can now only handle rotary wing aircraft on what little of the original runway remains.
A week later I was on a solo mission to RAF Henlow for their air show. This was a very low key affair compared to Biggin Hill or even Bassingbourn but it did have one or two good aircraft on display. 72 Sqn RAF sent a Westland Wessex serial number XV729 which was coded AE. Number 3 Flying Training School (FTS) from RAF Leeming North Yorkshire sent a trio of Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1’s wearing their Red and White colours. The Royal Danish AF sent the same Saab Supporter (T-405) that had been at Bassingbourn the weekend before.
Also in the static park was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules XV179 which was the support aircraft for the RAF parachute display team, The Falcons. Further along the static park was an AVRO Vulcan B.2 XL318 from the 203 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), a Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod MR.2 serial XV249 from RAF Kinloss and a lone Phantom FG.2 of 43 Sqn (The Fighting Cocks) serial number XV581 coded E.
In 1978 I was still ‘spotting’ civil aircraft I was at Stapleford which is close to the Lambourne VOR (LAM), catch of the day for day in the few minutes that I was there was to see the aircraft described by some as the flying carrot or the Big Orange. This was in fact a Boeing 747-127 registration N601BN; the aircraft belonged to the American carrier Braniff International Airlines, the whole aircraft was painted in bright orange!
My next venture out was to the Duxford air show, this was a really pleasant day out as I remember that the sun was shining and there was a clear blue sky all day. However there is a distinct disadvantage to air shows at Duxford in that the visiting public are all based on the North side of the airfield so if you wanted to photograph you’d be shooting into sun for the whole day. There was a good assortment of aircraft at the airfield on that day but alas I was a bit tardy in recording what was there and there is no record of the event on the Netherlands based Scramble Air Show reports www.scramble.nl
I did make good use of the morning there to visit every Hangar and see the exhibits therein. I do now regret not making a record of exactly wat I saw!
On May 19th I was yet again in the vicinity of the Lambourne VOR and this time I was rewarded with a sighting of a Belgian Air Force AMD Falcon 20E serial CM-01. This aircraft was then assigned to 21 Sm (Sqn) of the Belgian AF and would have been based at Brussels – Melsbroek airport.
On June 20th on my way back from Luton airport I called by Hatfield, no hassle from the Security this time. My prize of the day was to see yet another Trident 2 painted in CAAC colours but still wearing its British civil registration G-BBWH for the delivery flight to China.
On July 7th while on duty we had to call into the M.11 Motorway Control centre at Chigwell. I was pleasantly surprised to see Bell-47G G-BBRG sitting there. This was being utilised by the Metropolitan Police as India 99 their Air Support Unit call sign for the helicopter.
Just a week later Christine and I were heading off to stay with friends Roger & Karen Cooper who lived in Newbury, Royal Berkshire. I’d met Roger a few months previously while we both attended a Traffic Law course at the Essex Police HQ’s. Our journey meant that we had to pass by Heathrow, well I say pass as we did of course call in for about an hour. (Big smile) We were going to spend a couple of evenings / days with Roger and Karen and thus timed our arrival for late afternoon.
The following day just happened to coincide with my 26th birthday; I didn’t know it prior to going down to Newbury but Christine and I were in for a treat. Roger had unbeknown to me had liaised with Hampshire Constabulary; we set off from Newbury and made our way down towards Southampton and in particular the docks. We parked on the quay side car park at the docks and walked the few metres to the quay. We were going to watch the P & O cruise line Canberra set sail. Another experience I will never forget; to see this, what was then a fairly big ship seem effortlessly leave the quayside and move out into the harbour on the first stage of its cruise was a magnificent sight and as I said something I’ll never forget.
On the way home from this Roger very kindly drove me around Southampton airport, alas there was nothing there to grab my interest.
The following day after saying our farewell to Roger and Karen it was time to head home for Harlow. Yet again the routing took us to Heathrow; there was a very nice mix of Boeing and Lockheed aircraft in the various colour schemes of British and U.S operators as well as some from the Middle and Far East.
July 23rd and I was yet again on duty when we pulled into Stansted airport. This particular time there were five Red Folland Gnat T.1’s of the Red Arrows sitting on the apron outside of the Terminal building. After a brief chat with the guys from the airport my crew partner and I were airside looking at and being photographed with the Red Arrows aircraft, but there was no sign of the Pilots. I was amazed at just how small the Folland Gnat was. It must have fitted the pilots like a very comfortable shoe or pair of gloves. It transpired that the aircraft were on diversion from RAF Biggin Hill due to unfavourable weather (WX) conditions.
On 23rd of August the WX at Heathrow must have been bad as there were a number of diversions to Stansted that included ZS-ZAP a Boeing 747 of South African Airways, pair of British Airways VC.10’s G-ASGH / J and an Israeli Boeing 707 4X-ATY.
The 24th again at Stansted provided only one aircraft of interest to me being 5X-UCF which was a Lockheed L.382 the civilian version of the Hercules. 5X- would indicate to me that this aircraft was on the Ugandan civil aircraft register.
The next occasion I went out was August 27th this was for the annual Air Fete at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, in England. This was for me going to be the biggest air show that I’d attend in 1978.
There were four display teams; The Royal Air Force, Red Arrows flying their bright red Folland Gnat T.1’s, the Royal Navy Blue Herons flying their Hawker Hunter GA.11’s, the Portuguese ASAS de Portugal flying their Cessna T.37C’s, and the Italian Air Force display team the Frecce Tricolori flying their Fiat G.91 PAN. I recall that the Royal Canadian AF was there with seven of their Lockheed CF-104’s Starfighters from their European base at Baden Solingen, Germany.
As one would anticipate the United States, Air Force, Army and Navy sent a good number of aircraft; the 48th TFW provided just one F-111F, while the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing based at RAF Upper Heyford (UH) provided three of their F-111E aircraft. Two 36th TFW McDonnell-Douglas F-15A Eagles made the trip form their base At Bitburg in Germany. The US Army (USAR) sent a lone Boeing-Vertol CH-47C Chinook also from a base within Germany. While the United States Navy (USN) had the two Mildenhall (Naval Air Facility) C-131 Samaritan’s on display together with and E-2C Hawkeye and an F-14A Tomcat from VF-32, USN
The West German AF sent a lone McDonnell-Douglas F-4F Phantom, together with two of their Fiat G-91R’s and a lone Lockheed F-104G Starfighter.
The French Air Force (L’Armee de L’Air) sent a pair of SEPECAT Jaguar A version, which if my memory serves me well sat next to two Jaguar GR.1’s of the RAF. The ‘GR’ in this case denotes Ground attack / Recognisance.
It was truly an eclectic collection of aircraft, however for me the star of this show was the Lockheed EC-121T Warning Star AWACS aircraft of the 79th AWACS. The home base of the 79th AWACS was at Homestead, AFB, Florida in the USA. The aircraft and crews would conduct normally a 90 day TDY (Temporary DutY) to Keflavik AB in Iceland.
There were a number of based aircraft also present for the show these included three Lockheed C-130E Hercules from the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, two Boeing EC-135H from the 10th ACCS and a number of transient Boeing KC-135A Stratotankers from various Air Refuelling Units from Bomb Wings they were assigned to.
This show was my introduction to American brewed Budweiser beer and to burgers cooked over charcoal and covered in BBQ sauce for breakfast! Mildenhall was going to be a tradition as were the burgers and the beer.
Another tradition would be to collect the Air Fete calendars that were free with your entry fee. That entry fee would cover a car and occupants, on one occasion we managed to get six of us in the car so that was a real bargain.
On sale would be various coloured tee shirts with the Air Fete logo of that particular year on. I still have all the Calendars and the tee shirts from every RAF Mildenhall Air Fete that I attended over the years.
Over the years it would be normal for me to arrange to take my (current) girlfriend, friends from around the globe and also to meet with other aviation enthusiasts from not only the U.K but from parts of Europe.
When I first went to one of these Air Fetes at Mildenhall I had no idea where it would lead to and who I would meet and become friends with in later years. You will read more of these adventures as I go further into the Blog.
A few days later Christine and I found ourselves in the small Cornish village of Mevagissey, the plan was for a few days away. I had driven us down from Harlow and we arrived in Meva (as the locals call it) late the same afternoon. We were shown to our room; well you could have knocked me down with a feather. It was awful; the bottom sheet was supposed to be white but was a dull grey in colour and was made of nylon. Arrgh was our first reaction once the manager had left the room. Still it was only for a couple of nights! We’d been asked if we’d like afternoon tea and scones, well when in Cornwall it’s rude not to. When we’d booked it said it included breakfast and afternoon tea so I was somewhat surprised having scoffed the scones and quaffed the tea to find we were required to pay. It transpires that the first afternoons tea was not included in the price……….. it was only going to get worse. The next day we stayed local to Mevagissey as there was so much to see and do, well according to the local Tourist Guide / Brochure we found in the hotel. Lunch was taken in a Sea Food restaurant at the Quay side, up until now I had been a Sea Food lover. Just thirty minutes after eating a mixed Sea Food Platter I was returning it all too whence it came i.e. the Harbour. Not so much a ‘pavement pizza’ as a harbour pizza and a floating one at that. Obviously there was something on that plate that didn’t agree with me or was off!! To this day I won’t eat any type of shell fish and I am very choosey about what fish I will eat.
Our second full day there was spent driving towards the town of Helston those of you that know Helston know what’s coming next! Helston is the nearest town to Europe’s largest Helicopter base, RNAS Culdrose or as the Royal Navy call it HMS Sea Hawk.
The Royal Navy (RN) treat all their shore based assets as though they are a ship, they don’t have ‘rooms’ they have cabins. The messes are called Galley’s and or Ward Rooms depending on the rank of the person(s) using it, and so it goes on.
On the day of our ‘visit’ to Culdrose there were a mix of rotary and fixed wing aircraft. In those days there was a fairly large visitor’s car park on the road that led eventually to the village of Gweek. You couldn’t see everything on the airfield but you were able to see a good percentage of the based and visiting aircraft.
On this particular day there were at least six Sea Prince T.1’s fixed wing aircraft, these were used by 750 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) for Observer training. There were about a dozen Westland Gazelle HT.2Helicopters of 705 NAS; the Gazelles were use as training aircraft for new pilots. There was also a mix of Westland Wessex HU.5 and Westland Sea King HAS.5 aircraft also flying to and from the airfield and on the deck.
We did venture down to the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek and this again was to my advantage as the majority of the Helos recovered to RNAS Culdrose (deck code CU) along the Helford River which took then straight (ish) towards the main runway. If only digital photography had been invented then.
Christine and I spent a couple of days touring around Cornwall seeing the sights and risking driving on those over so narrow tracks that resembled roads in places!
It will probably come as no surprise to you all to learn that just three days after the first visit to RNAS Culdrose we were back at the visitor’s car park with me looking through the fence at the assemble Helos and fixed wing aircraft, once again a mixture of Sea Kings, Wessex, Gazelles and Sea Prince lined up or flying around the base.
We left RNAS Culdrose and continued our tour of Cornwall, the next stop was Penzance. At the time British Airways Helicopters operated a regular service to the Scilly Isles utilising an S.61N (the civilian version of the Sea King). Alas in those days we couldn’t afford the expense of flying on a ‘there and back flight’ to the Scilly Isles just to be able to say we’d done it.
From Penzance we started to head North the next stop was St Just aerodrome, where there were a number of civil aircraft based. Nothing there to interest me at the time save for a DeHavilland Rapide registration G-AIYR which was tucked away in a hangar.
From St Just we headed back to Mevagissey for our final night to be spent in Cornwall. The next day we were up fairly early and set off on our travels, across Cornwall to our final destination before making the long haul home.
The next stop was Newquay / RAF St Mawgan, the airfield was split into two distinct halves, the civilian side was Newquay civil airport and the other RAF St. Mawgan. St Mawgan was home to the Southern fleet of Nimrod, MR.2 Maritime Recognisance aircraft. The Northern fleet of Nimrods were based at Kinloss in Scotland. At the time of our visit there were just six of the Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod MR.2’s on the base. The Nimrods would be used in the anti-submarine detection role as well as Maritime Surveillance. In 1978 the infamous Iron Curtain was still in existence and Britain was conscious of the ever present threat from the Soviet Bloc especially so its fleet of submarines.
I can’t speak for Christine but I’d certainly enjoyed my time in Cornwall. For me it is always great to visit a new part of the Country and to explore new bases (to me) and to see what they had in store for the Aviation Enthusiast.
Just three days after we got back home I’m guessing I was at work when I called into Stansted airport. There were two Short Bros. Belfast’s sitting on the ramp, one was Military serial XR362 and the other wore a civilian registration of G-BEPS, this also wore the titles ‘Panaf’. This must have been a subsidiary of the parent company Heavy Lift Airlines who hauled cargo all over the world.
Traditionally September sees the end of the air show season and thus my travels around the country become less frequent. The old faithful’s, like Stansted (whether working or for pleasure), Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick all got visited on a fairly regular basis.
On October 21st I ventured a bit further out stopping off at Kidlington (Oxford) and RAF Brize Norton. This came up trumps for me, a Brazilian Air Force Lockheed C-130H was the star prize (tail number 2463). Also there was a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy tail number 70-0466 which if I recall correctly was assigned to the 433rd Military Airlift Wing, USAF. A lone Bristol Britannia XX367 and four Vickers VC-10’s completed the scene.
The end of the year also bought me another first; December 28th. I was on duty in a marked Police Patrol car and my crew partner and we called into Stansted Airport Police station for a cuppa. One of the guys on duty there knew my interest in aircraft and said there was something on the cargo ramp that may well interest me. After the brew wet set out in the Police airport Land Rover for the cargo area. On arrival we both saw a bearded man climbing down one of the lighting towers. Being Copper’s we both said he must be up to something.
He turned out to be Mr Robert ‘Bob’ Robinson an Air Traffic Controller at Stansted, he like me had an interest in aviation and had just climbed the lighting tower to take a picture of the Argentine Air Force Lockheed C-130H Hercules tail number TC-68.
I struck a deal with Bob; somewhere in my collection of prints stuck together is a picture of TC-68 taken by Bob from the top of that lighting tower. He told me later that when he saw the Police vehicle he did think he was going to be as he put it ‘nicked’ albeit he had done nothing wrong. He said it was a bit of a relief when he realised that I was there to see the C-130. Bob and I became friends and to this day (January 2017) we still are. You will read more about Bob in a later chapter (year) of this Blog. For me seeing that Argentine AF C-130H Hercules was an excellent end to 1978.